Update: The day after this post went live, Patreon published a retraction on their company blog saying they would not roll out the announced fee changes as outlined below. There will still be some kind of changes but we do not yet know what these will entail. I will continue on as I discuss in this post, because it occurs to me that being too dependent on middlemen is rarely a good thing.
Another update: Just found this article on Forbes with a suggested plan to fix the pricing structure. It’s their opinion, not my own, but it’s interesting to see other takes.
It started quietly last week. Patreon sent out an email to creators with a heads up that patrons were going to start shouldering the fees that, previously, creators paid. Their claim was that this made sure that creators got the money their art deserved, but in reality it has shifted the entire foundation upon which most creators developed their Patreon profiles.
Article on engadget about what happened (though that Forbes article describes it a bit more clearly).
In the indie author space, Patreon users were encouraged to let their supporters know that $1 pledges were more sustainable for everyone. If anyone ever had to retract their pledge, a creator would feel the loss of a single dollar a lot less painfully than if that person had been more generous with their support.
Now, Patreon seems bound and determined to weed out these smaller transactions in favor of higher-grossing, elite superstars. The $0.35 + 2.9% transaction fee impacts those carefully cultivated small pledges.
Creators were pissed and, in defense of their Patrons, called on Patreon to hold off on these plans so everyone could have a discussion about how this would affect the platform. At the very least, to give creators the option to shoulder those fees themselves. Patreon was unrepentant, sticking to a story about “supporting creators” that got thinner and thinner by the moment.
Patreon was a nice, shiny, UI for providing exclusive content, but the complaint had long been lodged that Patreon did little to bring new supporters to a profile. It was very much “bring your own crowd” but at least the site functioned as a convenient way to create and store content than a platform on which someone could expand their audience. Brand recognition was built FOR Patreon BY the creators who sent their audience to their custom patreon.com/username URLs.
But beyond the fees associated with pledges received, there are also withdrawal fees for creators who want to transfer their money to Stripe or Paypal, and then the fees tacked on by those individual services.
The shock of this policy change at Patreon, I think, has had the benefit of giving people a reason to step back and gain some clarity about the role Patreon plays in ‘supporting the arts.’
Lots of creators are reporting massive loss of supporters, and posting screen shots of their exit messages which seem heavily weighted against the Patreon decision. I myself pulled my $19 in pledges from the site. Fireside Fiction got their money back from me immediately, as they have a subscription service set up on their site. I also hope this means they get more of that $2 I send them now that it only passes through one payment service. I am still hoping to hear from the other creators I supported that there is another way to make my monthly contributions to them.
It didn’t take long for folks to start looking around for alternatives. Drip, by kickstarters, seems to be a viable option for creators who are looking for a similar experience to Patreon but want to deliver a message about this sort of policy changes.
If you’ve been following along on my blog or in my video entries, you’ll know I had plans to launch a story series through Patreon next year. January, in fact, was my target date. I was shuddering with indecision for a few days, toying with the idea of releasing the entire thing as a finite set of novellas. But I wanted to try presenting this story this way and so I will press on.
Using a plug-in called s2Member, I will be opening up a support path for my readers in the new year, managing content and subscribers directly through my website, accepting payments via PayPal recurring payments. Yes, it’s one more log-in for someone to manage, but I believe they can use their centralized WordPress.com login and their existing paypal.com login, so hopefully there isn’t too much friction happening.
We’ll talk about how it’s going and how you can do the same in a future episode of the Hybrid Author Podcast.
Mind you, if you already have a Patreon platform with a few dozen supporters, it doesn’t make sense to jump ship and pray that they follow you. But I’m here on the pre-launch side, and I don’t have any patrons on Patreon to dislodge. I have the choice to ‘start fresh’ because I’m starting it for the first time.
Just to bookend this post with article, here’s a very passionate look at the events of the past week (in terms of Patreon; let’s not get started on the week as a whole):
Amanda Palmer’s post on Patreon, describing her feelings on the matter.
P.S.: As Ms. Palmer points out at the end of her post, the only way we can ensure uninterrupted communication with each other is an exchange of emails. If you haven’t already signed up for my subscriber list, please consider doing so. It’s free, and you’ll get to read some of my work before anyone else.